“Thanks, I don’t need a bag!” How many times a day do I have to repeat this sentence? When buying drinks at a convenience store, apples at a supermarket or a pack of gum… in all sorts of occasions we are given plastic bags which we only use for very short moments. The national disposal (in Japan) of these shopping bags alone reaches up to 60 tons every year. As a solution to this escalating garbage problem “Furoshiki” – a square piece of wrapping cloth traditionally used in Japan for carrying things – have been re-thought and re-designed. 30 artists and celebrities have challenged this traditional format of a square cloth to be applied for modern use in the current “FUROSHIKI” exhibition at Creation Gallery G8 in Ginza, Tokyo. Under the theme of “beauty of wrapping” and “beauty of carrying” the designers wrapped what they considered most precious to themselves. Here are my most favorite furoshiki for PingMag.
Written by Chiemi
Translation by Natsumi Yamane
Furoshiki have been a part of the Japanese lifestyle for a long time, but – except for a few exeptions – got neglected in the past decades. I remember grannies well, who would bring presents wrapped in crane or cherry blossom patterned Furoshiki! And the excitement of the furoshiki bundle slowly being unwrapped! Excellent!
I never realized the universal use of this cloth before, but this exhibition has become a wonderful opportunity to make me aware of its greatness.
Costume Artist Kozue Hibino designed a Furoshiki pattern consisting of many animals. She stated that Furoshiki can not only wrap objects, but maybe even this stricken planet as well. The thing she chose to wrap was “sincerity.” If the amount of garbage can be reduced by using Furoshiki, then it must be sincerity to earth, don’t you think?
Graphic designer Mitsuo Katsui designed an extravagant Furoshiki which wraps up your lunch-box in a quite elegant way to go with your Hanami – outfit. When wrapping, the corners of the furoshiki cloth meet in opposing colours. Beautiful! If you hurry, you can still impress your friends with the most exciting Sakura-bento to be un-wrapped during your picnic.
Similarly, graphic designer Taku Sato came up with a Furoshiki to wrap a box of his own designs: 15 packets of Lotte chewing gum. His furoshiki-pattern was made by gum “stamps”: printing by using the gum’s surfaces. That is so novel! The chewing gum wrapped in it looked just like a work of art. Fantastic!
Here is what he added himself about his design: “Furoshiki is a piece of cloth which requires people’s thoughts, people’s brain, because people need to invent new ways of how to use Furoshiki every time. If we keep relying on existing models (like plastic bags), we will all end up stupid in the end and – stupid people don’t care about the environment. That is how I feel about the multiple use Furoshiki for this project. The chewing gum packaging becomes rubbish after you consume it, so I wanted to turned it into something useful before throwing it away. I came up with stamping a pattern out of gum-waste and that became the pattern of my Furoshiki.”
Architect Kengo Kuma claims that the furoshiki changes its shape depending on what it wraps and that it is basically denying ‘shape.’ His cloth was designed with a print of the texture of shapeless soil. This very cloth then wrapped the same soil and demonstrated his concept of furoshiki.
Artist and art director Noriyuki Tanaka designed a very stylish furoshiki. His aim is to encourage the use of furoshiki also amongst young and fashionable people. Obviously, furoshiki isn’t for grannies only!
“People are born and live to fall in love, get aged and die!”, says illustrator Akira Uno. His wistful and romantic furoshiki uses black as the main colour to suit dresses for all occasions – from love to death. His interesting furoshiki-theme makes me think of the various dramas in the life of the person using it.
There were many more unique furoshiki at the exhibition (and some of them could be purchased, so if you are lucky to be in Tokyo right now: here is your chance to get a very special furoshiki to take home)! It was a great chance to rediscover the multi-purpose use of such a simple, traditional item. Go and get one, wrap just about anything, again and again and again – and remember, that every time you do, this huge pile of garbage gets a little smaller. I really hope that the renewed attention on furoshiki shows that designers care and that there are actually lots of great alternatives out there for you to use!